Why Your YouTube-Focused Video Strategy Isn’t Working For You

YouTube can be a great tool for video marketing, but too often marketers make the mistake of putting it at the center of their video strategy.

Using YouTube the wrong way may cost your company credibility, lost traffic and sales. Using it the right way, as a key piece in your holistic, multichannel video strategy, can achieve great results for your business.

Many retailers struggle in deciding between whether to host videos on their site or whether to upload them on a social sharing site like YouTube. My suggestion is this: use both, but for different purposes.

You have different goals when hosting videos on-site as opposed to YouTube. On your web site, you’re trying to convince shoppers to make a purchase. On YouTube, the goal is to create awareness and have viewers connect with your brand in a way that resonates.


Why YouTube-Centered Strategies Don’t Work

Here are some of the biggest mistakes brands and retailers make when they put YouTube at the core of their video marketing efforts:

  • Amateurish quality: What makes YouTube so great is that anyone with a flipcam and an Internet connection can achieve stardom with a hit video. Some retailers make the mistake of incorporating some of the amateur qualities of popular YouTube videos in the hopes of seeming authentic and cool. The results are usually poor lighting and sound, and not much of an impact on sales.
  • Not the right metrics: YouTube does offer some very valuable view analytics to tell you why your videos are popular and where viewers come from. You can even look at your top referring sites to see if YouTube videos are helping drive traffic to your site. What it doesn’t tell you is this: “Are people who are watching my videos buying my stuff?” It doesn’t give you the in-depth metrics that allow you to improve your video merchandising efforts.
  • Control of traffic:You plan your site navigation to make each click take the visitor one step closer to purchase. That may not fit with YouTube’s objective of “more eyes on YouTube.” The embedded YouTube player can, with one click, take viewers away to YouTube, siphoning off a percentage of your traffic.
  • Branding concerns: If you’re embedding the YouTube player on your site, you may be compromising branding. Every element that makes its way on to your page is scrutinized for brand compliance, and the YouTube player shouldn’t get a free pass. If you don’t address that, the YouTube logo and branding is on every product page. Consumers are more likely to associate those brand elements with fun, amateur videos than with trusted product information.

So Where Does YouTube Fit?

Does all that make YouTube sound like a bad idea? It’s not. YouTube’s not a substitute for a video strategy, and it’s not the best option for your site-based video merchandising. But YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, and it’s where most of the video views on the Web occur. That makes YouTube your single biggest strategic asset for discovery.

Think of your site as the hub of your video program, where you merchandise video in a way designed to drive sales. Think of YouTube as a powerful outpost that captures the attention of searchers interested in your product categories and leads them back to your site. Yes – you can harness YouTube, instead of YouTube harnessing you.

Tailor The Content

As discussed earlier, you should host videos on your own site in addition to YouTube and other social sharing sites. The content for each type of video will have to be different.

On your site, you might have full product videos that are designed to be as informative as possible, so that the consumer feels more confident in a purchase and may be less likely to return an item. In a November 2011 survey conducted by the e-tailing group in partnership with Invodo, 51 percent of consumers said they are more confident in potential purchases and less likely to return an item after they watch a video.

On YouTube, short videos announcing promotions in an educational or humorous way might be an effective way to drive some buzz. Alternatively, YouTube is a good platform for snippets of interviews or musical content that drive brand awareness, and are easily shareable among consumers. But whereas on-site video is presented in a context that encourages action (such as adding a product to your cart), on YouTube you need to take the extra step to incorporate a clear call to action that ties to the content, like perhaps an overlay calling viewers to visit a vanity url.

Use The Secret Link

YouTube prefers to keep viewers on YouTube, so it can be hard to find ways to drive viewers to your site. Here’s an easy one that many retailers and brands miss: put a text link as the very first element in the video description. That puts a clickable link right below the video as it plays. Thanks for the traffic, YouTube!

Use Professional Production Quality

Some of YouTube’s most popular viral videos were shot by ordinary people recording something funny with average- to poor sound and video quality. Their authentic nature is a big reason why they spread so fast. But don’t come to the conclusion that this type of style and quality, produced in-house (think: intern holding a flipcam) will necessarily help you sell things.

Multiple research studies, including the e-tailing group/Invodostudy mentioned earlier, have found that consumers feel more confident in a purchase when they watch a product video that uses professional-grade sound and lighting, where the shopper can explore the key features of a product just as they could in a store.

Optimize Correctly For Social Media

With 60 hours of video uploaded to YouTube per minute, 1 trillion views per year, and 3 billion hours of video watched each month, virtually all retailers are best served having a presence there.  Make sure your content is optimized so that it’s easy for people to find and share your videos on social sites.

Social sharing can be very powerful because consumers are often more willing to look at videos shared by family or friends as opposed to directly from brands or advertisers.

Also, make sure that if you’re sharing videos on YouTube, Facebook and other social sites, that the content is unique, which makes them friendlier to search engines.

Choose The Right Metrics

There are plenty of metrics to choose from, some of which will be more relevant to you depending on your objectives. By partnering with an online video platform to host the videos on your site, you can look at metrics like how long people viewed a video, how it impacted the time they spent on a page, and whether people completed watching the full video. You can also look at conversion metrics, such as comparing checkout conversion rates between video viewers and non-viewers, and conversion rates by specific product.

One of the most important metrics you can use is video ratings and comments, which can tell you specific questions a viewer had about a product after watching a video, and how you might improve that video the next time. At the end of the day, attracting thousands of views on a particular video can be a good measure of success…but being able to see what those viewers did on your site after they watched your video is more likely an even better one.

A Change In Mentality

If you’ve been exclusively using YouTube to host your videos and are frustrated with the results, the path to a successful video marketing effort begins with a change of mentality. Think of YouTube and other social video sharing sites as channels that can syndicate your video content and get many more views than you would achieve by hosting content solely on your own servers.

Remember that successful videos help consumers move down the purchase funnel. If your videos are based on YouTube, many of your prospective sales will never proceed down the funnel.  Using videos both on-site and on sharing sites in ways they are best designed will yield the best results.

Russ Somers is the Director of Marketing at Invodo, the business video experts. Russ leads Invodo’s marketing team, managing product marketing and lead generation as well as driving the company’s marketing communications, social media and PR initiatives.

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